A Cinephile’s Guide to Movie Camerawork

If you are a movie lover, you have no problem watching your favourite film over and over. Due to this, you get to notice every detail and nuanced aspects of it. So do not be surprised if you have a friend who seems to have memorised every line and dialogue of an iconic flick. It’s the stuff that future filmmakers are made of.

You can say that a company that can provide content writing services can help clean up or edit screenplays. But making the pages come to life lies in the hands of a director. Hardcore movie fans with the right eye for details will recognise who helmed a movie just by watching a few scenes. There are certain trademarks that you can tell if you have seen the filmography of a particular director. A standout would be their camerawork. If you want to learn how to notice the details, here is a guide on how to manipulate the lens.

The Close Up

Closing in on an object or a person is one of the most basic techniques of movie-making. You can do this in two ways. Moving the whole camera towards the subject allows it to get close while having no control over the overall detail of the image. But when you do it by manipulating the zoom function of the lens, it will enable you to focus on the foreground or background elements. The former can present raw-feeling footage, like that of a documentary, while the latter is more apt for showing the finer details like the wrinkles on an actor’s face.

The Tracking Shot

Scenes that look like you are chasing someone are made using tracking shots. That is done by a camera mounted on a platform, which is then placed on a rail track. The path of the said track is predetermined on the set; this is made to have the movement be smooth and uninterrupted. The shot itself is used by the director to convey motion or creeping suspense. A great example would be the scene where the boy is riding his toy trike along the hotel corridors in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.

The Sweeping Camera Shot

Directors have it easy these days. A few decades ago, they would have to use helicopters or huge cranes to take panoramic shots of a location. Now, they can simply rig a camera onto a drone and make sweeping shots. Peter Jackson made good use of this to show the epic battles in his adaptation of the fantasy saga The Lord of the Rings. It is a great way to give the audience a sense of scale.

The Shaky Cam

Camera lens

The political thriller The Bourne Identity, directed by Doug Liman, is lauded for its grounded feel. It brought the world a new take on the super spy with its main character. That is an example of a film where the shaky-cam technique is used correctly. Some people do not like it because it can induce motion sickness or makes scenes confusing. Bourne uses it in most of the action scenes, which gives it a more realistic feel. The hand-to-hand fighting, in particular, does not look choreographed and instead feels raw and brutal.

Movies can give you exceptional moments with expertly-crafted scenes. If you want to be a director yourself, you will benefit greatly from watching and scrutinising films and their smallest details. Studying these camera techniques and how they make you feel when you see them is a good start. From here, you can move on to pursuing film making as a hobby, and possibly even as a profession in the future.

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